George Joseph Chrétien Simenon (see-muh-NAWN) was a man ruled by his passions. Whatever he loved, he did to excess. This was true in both his professional and personal lives. Simenon was an able publicist for himself, and one of his passions was retelling tales of his own life. He wrote two autobiographical novels and four autobiographies. After his retirement in 1973, he stopped writing fiction to concentrate on his memoirs, of which he produced twenty-one volumes. For his biographers, the challenge was not too little information but too much, and much of the information provided, even from Simenon’s own hand, was often contradictory.
One of the most prolific writers in the history of literature, Simenon kept to a rigorous creative schedule that would leave him nearly exhausted at the end of each work. Not only could he write a book in twelve days, he did this as his routine: seven days to write the book and five days to edit it. Typing in excess of eighty pages per day, Simenon would lock himself away in his study and produce several books each year. A legend grew around Simenon’s writing speed. According to the legend, Simenon once contracted to write an entire novel while sealed in a glass case. No evidence exists that this really happened, but it was a commonly held belief. Any accounting of Simenon’s work is based on estimates or best guesses. Having written in so many genres, using varied pseudonyms, and having written a prodigious amount of material make an exact count impossible. He wrote under such names as Bobette, Germain d’Antibes, Jacques Dersonnes, Georges d’Isly, Luc Dorsan, Jean Dorsange, Jean Dossage, Jean du Perry, Georges Martin Georges, Gom Gut, Kim, La Deshabilleuse, Monsieur Le Coq, Plick et Plock, Georges Sim, Gaston Vialis, G. Violis, and Christian Brulls.
Simenon was born in Liège, Belgium, on February 13, 1903, the eldest of two sons born to Désiré and Henriette Simenon. Simenon’s relationships with his father and mother were contrasting. While he adored his father, who often made allowances for Simenon’s youthful indiscretions, his relationship with his mother was strained for his entire life. His mother made no secret that she preferred Simenon’s younger brother, Christian, and she would not spend the money Simenon gave her when he was earning a fortune as the most widely published author in the world. When Simenon was fifteen, his father, an accountant, suffered a heart attack, and Simenon subsequently left school.
The following year, Simenon joined the newspaper Gazette de Liège as a reporter. He began associating with a group of young men who saw themselves as brilliant artists and thinkers. They called their group La Caque (The Cask), which was an appropriate name because they spent most of their free time drinking. Simenon was a fringe member of this group that was ultimately more renowned for its troublemaking than its genius.
It was through members of La Caque, however, that Simenon met Regine Renchon, the woman would become his first wife and the mother of his oldest son. Simenon called her Tigy, and he would refer to her by this name for the rest of his...
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